Date: March 11 – 16, 2018
Location: Montbello, Denver CO
Sponsor: Colorado Health Foundation, The Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC)
Subject Area: Building Healthy Places
Panel Chair: Michael Banner, Los Angeles LDC, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Panel Assignment
Montbello is a 3.5 square mile neighborhood in the far northeast Denver. It is home to around 34,250 people and has 8,894 households. It is a community that prides itself on diversity and claims a small town feel. Montbello is also characterized by its young population, with almost 50% of its residents under the age of 25. Most households are comprised of multiple generations and many have multiple families sharing the same house. Montbello is a major employment center for the City of Denver, hosting over 14,000 jobs and 12% of the city’s manufacturing business.
A main focus of this dynamic is around the creation of a location that can both bring together the entire Montbello community and provide access to fresh food. The Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC) received a grant from The Kresge Foundation’s FreshLo initiative to “support [the] creation of a cultural hub to serve as a community gathering place and includes a new fresh food market and space for artistic demonstrations, displays and performances celebrating cultural heritage and neighborhood unity.” The panel found that local resident expenditures show that residents are leaving the area to buy their groceries; only approximately 40% of Montbello food and beverage expenditures take place in the neighborhood. By offering unique food and retail options within the neighborhood, the panel believes that around 20% of the food leakage can be captured back for inside the neighborhood.
|Total Opportunity Gap||56,126 SF|
|Support From 15 min. Walk||4,372 SF|
|Support From Greater Montbello||10,059 SF|
|Total Potential Supportable Space||14,431 SF|
Panel Assignment/La Asignación
- What is the feasibility of implementing the FreshLo plan, what resources are needed, what barriers must be addressed, and what is a reasonable timeframe for full implementation? Specifically, how can we take advantage of public and private financing?
- What are the most effective structural mechanisms for realizing the FreshLo plan – Nonprofit Organization, Community Development Corporation, Business Improvement District, etc.?
- How can we create a healthier community in Montbello using the FreshLo Initiative?
- What steps can residents take to mitigate the effects of gentrification so that this community-driven initiative can take precedence over the “mission-driven” priorities of outside developers and investors?
- How can this Initiative be positioned so that it leverages further economic development?
- How can we work effectively with other community partners to accomplish the goals of FreshLo and the emerging goals for the Montbello community?
This panel is part of the Colorado Health Foundation’s (CHF) Healthy Places Program, which supports community efforts to increase opportunities for safe physical activity. Through a community-led approach, Healthy Places supports communities to both improve upon their current assets and identify new possibilities to increase activity through physical improvements. Following a RFP for participation, CHF selected four communities from across that state that demonstrated both a need and desire for the program and an ability to implement the recommendations. Montbello is the final of ULI’s advisory services panels for this round of the program, and was preceded by panels in Colorado Springs, Commerce City, and the City of Greeley.
Summary of Recommendations
Through talking to residents, hearing the MOC’s vision, and running the numbers, the panel believes that there is a strong need for a fresh food market and community hub. The panel proposed three different complimentary scenarios, which build off each other to show the effects of different levels of planning and time commitments. The three scenarios are all based around the acquisition or renting of the proposed 1.4 acre RTD Park-and-Ride site.
In responding to the requirements of the FreshLo initiative, the panel’s scenarios all include best practices and principles that incorporate the following characteristics:
- Develop and support an equitable social enterprise business model
- Establish a governance structure that is committed to improving community health and wellness
- Require responsible capital deployment policies and sustainable operating metrics
- Respect and expand diverse cultural programming opportunities
- Provide a mechanism for ongoing community engagement and feedback
- Look at other successful development strategies while integrating evolving market trends
- Take a long term approach by phasing major community and economic development projects
- Scenario One: RTD Site
- This plan redevelops the RTD site’s available 30,000 sf. It designates 15,000 sf for a fresh food market, 4,000 sf for a health component, 5,000 for community flex space, 25,000 sf for retail, 1,000 sf for a kitchen, and 1,250 for additional parking.
- The panel believes that this should be a one story building. Some ideas for how to program parts of the community flex space and retail are:
- Theater performance
- Artist exhibition
- Community gathering
- Commissary kitchen
- Ancillary retail
- Scenario Two: Assemblage
- The panel believes that an additional 4-5 acres could be acquired over the next few years in adjacent properties to create a town center. These should be developed to all work in tandem to create a space for Montbello residents and other Denverites to gather, celebrate, and access resources.
- Scenario Three: Distributed
- The panel believes that there is a great need as well as opportunity for incremental development of other community assets throughout the neighborhood. These can become “third places” for the community to gather and celebrate.
- This can take place on lots that are owned by faith-based institutions that currently have no programming on them or school land.
- Support immediate art programs throughout the community to create a sense of where and what Montbello is.
- Support putting community art at gateways into Montbello through creative placemaking.
- Create a Walkable Loop throughout the neighborhood that connects different community assets.
- Activate the loop through exercise stop points.
- Increase communication through the community and between different subsects of the community. In particular, resources should be shared between the African American and Latin American communities to have the most impact.